How to not take on someone else’s pain

Ever love someone so much it literally hurts to see them suffer and your heart just breaks?

Ever feel like you have so much empathy for others, even strangers, that you cannot help but take in their pain?

I get it. As a sensitive and empathic person, I feel deeply. So much so that for years I had third eye migraines because I did not want to “see” other people’s pain. But thanks to many amazing spiritual teachers I have learned the difference between sympathy and compassion.

That distinction was incredibly important for me to remember recently as I witnessed someone I love in a lot of pain. It was so hard to see this person suffering. My heart literally hurt. I wanted to fix, solve, rescue – anything to make their pain stop. But I couldn’t. The only thing I could do, the only loving thing I could do, was just hold a space of unconditional love and compassion. I share more about this in today’s vlog.

Knowing the difference between sympathy and empathy is key to not taking on someone else’s pain. Sympathy is not love, it is judgment. When we have sympathy for someone, we are feeling bad for them. We feel sorry for them. We believe that what they are going through is “bad.” We see them as a victim.

Empathy is about compassion. Compassion means being with suffering. “Co” means “with” and “passion” means “suffering.” When we are in the loving energy of compassion, we are simply with the person. We are not judging, fixing, solving or rescuing.

And when we hold the energy of compassion, we do not take on or take in the other person’s pain. (Tweet This!!)

Now I know this is REALLY HARD especially when it comes to the people you love. Seeing your child hurt is unbearable. Seeing your spouse suffer is painful. Seeing anyone you care about struggling is gut-wrenching.

But if we take on their pain or think we should make it go away two things happen. First, we deplete our own energy by taking on someone else’s pain. Second, we forget we are not God and the person is on his or her own spiritual path.

I really get that when we see someone we love suffering, we want to do something! Do not under estimate the power of love and compassion. Holding space, listening, loving, hugging, and reflecting to the person the strength we see in them is doing something!

Love heals, not pity.  Choose compassion over sympathy.

And to all my fellow empaths and highly sensitive people, please do not internalize other people’s pain. We are not here to be saviors. We are here to bring more love, compassion, and understanding to the world. We do that through compassion and by holding strong in the knowing that every person is connected to the Divine and they have the inner resources they need to heal. Sure, we can support, direct and guide – but we are not here to save.

Leave that to God.


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  • ArtN

    That was really touching. I could see how hurt you were in your eyes. Well, August is not my favorite month so this vlog hit me square in the stomach. It’s an important reminder for those of us who have journeyed with loved ones through terrible stuff but ended up spinning around in their vortex of pain and shame.

    We cannot change others. They have to want to do the hard work. It’s so hard to accept this when it’s our loved ones going through something terrible.

    I know a few people that would love to hear this. Sending them here…

    • Christine Hassler

      Thanks Art :)

  • Jason

    This really resonated with me, Christine. In the beginning of 2015 my wife Rosemary was getting sicker from ovarian cancer and the heaviness within me was growing so strong that I was finding it hard to cope. I wanted to fix the problem. To make sure she was getting healthy foods and supplements, enough rest. Ultimately I wanted her to be well again. And she knew it was too late. When she’d sense this heartache within me she would look me in the eye, tell me she loved me, and that it was time to let go. It was so hard to hear, but it’s what needed to happen. Eventually it did. By holding on, I was actually causing her more distress.

    I always said I’d never get married, but we finally did it just 6 weeks before she passed away. We had a simple private ceremony on April 1st … we thought it was hilarious that our friends would actually wonder if it was an April Fools joke :) In the last few months we had together I learned to love on a level deeper than I ever imagined possible. This wouldn’t have happened if I kept taking on so much of the pain. All Rosemary wanted was for me to be there with her, and like you said, full of compassion and love. This last year has been really hard, but I keep reminding myself of the magnificent gift she gave me.

    Christine, thanks for this little reminder and for the chance to reminisce. I love and appreciate your beautiful soul.

    • Christine Hassler

      Jason, thank you for sharing your sweetness and I can feel your deep love in your sharing.

  • Christine Hassler

    Jason, thank you for sharing your sweetness and I can feel your deep love in your sharing.

  • Kim

    Love this post and just what I needed to hear. When it’s my spouse that is upset it is hard for me not to feel responsible for his pain. Love your podcasts!!!

    • Christine Hassler

      So glad you’re enjoying the podcasts. Thank you for being a listener!!! I hear you on feeling responsible for your spouse’s pain. I’m glad this post is what you needed xo

  • Kristen

    This is challenging for me to do because I always want to help and give! But then I notice how much it drains me when I take on others pain and suffering. I have gradually realized it is their path and life lessons not mine. Great post!

    • Christine Hassler

      Thank you, Kristen! I acknowledge you for your observation and am so happy to hear that you’re taking care of yourself. So important. xo

  • Joseph Gray

    What a beautiful distinction Christine. This was one of the first things I saw when I woke. A sweet surprise. With all thats going on around us today its powerful to have such distinctions to guide us on our journeys. I THANK YOU for this and look forward to applying this in my world.

    • Christine Hassler

      So glad this spoke to you. Thank YOU for sharing and being a light worker in your world.